Photo from http://www.guardian.co.uk/As Londoners witness the looting and burning of their own buildings and the rest of the world watches in confusion, the dire state of the London riots brings the issues of class division and high unemployment into the spotlight. But it's way more than that. It's an issue of how "excessive consumerism", celebrity worship and status symbols has driven society all around the world to forget about the real things that matter in life, such as education, patriotism and community.
An article by Alexandra Topping of the Guardian ("Looting 'fuelled by social exclusion'") summed it best:
A generation bred on on a diet of excessive consumerism and bombarded by advertising had been unleashed, he added. "Where we used to be defined by what we did, now we are defined by what we buy. These big stores are in the business of tempting [the consumer] and then suddenly these people find they can just walk into the shop and have it all."
This is a wake up call to big corporations, media networks and marketers that push excessive consumption and high value on material things on society, which at this rate, will run the world into ruins if not through riots than through the depletion of our resources. Forever, our generation has been taught to want more. It is reminded everyday through music videos, magazine covers, billboards, reality TV shows and websites of what we don't have or should have. We have been brainwashed to think that these material objects define our happiness, when it shouldn't.
Especially during hard times like right now, where people are struggling to pay bills, buy food or provide for their children--brands, companies and entertainment have a social responsibility to look beyond selling goods or services but how they can better the lives of their consumers. The bright side of the recession is that it has taught me that I don't need very much to live happy. This combined with the revival of the localized businesses, grass roots marketing and the idea of a self-supporting community are signs that society is slowly changing its consumption habits for good.
I am not advocating for people NOT to spend money on luxury items or that it is wrong to want things. I am advocating for people's energy to be channeled towards more positive causes like the well-being of their families, community and country--and this includes the government and big corporations.
I remember about five months ago, I had read about how even in one of the worst disasters in Japan's history, the Japanese people did not resort to looting. That fact stuck in my head. Sometimes it's not what you do, it's what you DON'T do that can have the strongest impact. Sadly this is not the case in London, and the worst part about the recent riots is that nobody will come out a winner.